Four options for eradicating hunger in America

Tolerating hunger is ridiculous. There is a menu of options to eradicate hunger, meaning more than 37 million Americans would be adequately-fed. Here are just four ideas for you to consider:

The National Resources Defense Council reports that 40 percent of the food in America goes uneaten. The report, “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” notes that “reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year.”

Not a good enough answer for you? So let’s say we still threw away all that food. Here’s another solution: The Economist reports that farm subsidies cost taxpayers $20 billion. Most of those subsidies go to commodity crops — corn, soybeans, etc. — that are, in turn, either traded away, fed to animals, or hyper-processed into junk food.”

Could farm subsidies be used in a better way? What if we tweaked the subsidies a bit to increase food assistance to the poor and, as a part of the solution, incentivized and marketed that food stamps could be used at farmers’ markets, thus encouraging more farmers to grow fruits and vegetables and sell them locally? Sounds snazzy to me.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Only about 2 percent of U.S. farmland is used to grow fruits and vegetables, while 59 percent is devoted to commodity crops.” That’s a colossal waste of farmland.

The report goes on to say that “if meat and dairy consumption fell to levels recommended by the Harvard University School of Public Health, farmers would grow less corn and other grains used as livestock feed — 8 million acres less. This, in turn, would drive changes in farming practices that would build healthier soil, improve air and water quality, and increase access to fresh, affordable, healthy foods in farm communities.“

Now let’s get real tangible. Like what could you actively do to reduce hunger?

If we are concerned about our hungry neighbors, we might consider this, NASA scientists note that “Americans’ lawns now cover an area three times larger than any irrigated crop in the U.S. … [That’s] 63,000 square miles, of lawn in America — about the size of Texas.”

I personally believe that lawns are an incredible waste of water, energy, and space.

As Mark Bittman writes in the NYT article “Lawns into Gardens,” “converting 10 percent of our nation’s lawns to vegetable gardens could meet about a third of our fresh vegetable needs at current consumption rates.” You could eat some of that food for yourself. But you could also donate a portion of the food you grow to a local food bank.

So, there you have it. We can pick and choose from this menu of options to end hunger:

  • We could throw away less food and use the savings to support programs that devote their work to ending hunger.
  • We could refashion agriculture subsidies to help more poor folks afford nutritious, perhaps including in part of the answer purchasing food from local farmers’ markets and CSAs.
  • We could cut our consumption of meat. Even small changes would reduce waste, environmental degradation, and hunger.
  • We could convert lawn space to grow our food. I’d suggest designating a row or raised bed for a yearly donation to a food bank.

This post was written in 2015. I have significantly cleaned up the wording, but the facts and figures used remain. I think the argument is still very solid: tolerating hunger is ridiculous.